Friday, July 14, 2006

"What we have learned about how not to fool ourselves."

Bob Parks of What's New quoted Richard Feynman as having said that this is what science is all about.

Although I like this quotation, I think it leaves out a lot. Science doesn't help us in not fooling ourselves about our own subjective experience. Feynman enjoyed playing the bongo drums and being around naked women. His ability to be aware of and take pleasure in these experiences was one of his charms. He knew he liked them; he wasn't obsessed by them; he enjoyed them when the situation was appropriate.

We don't (at least so far) have a science that helps us work with (and keep us from fooling ourselves about) our subjective experience. What we've learned about not fooling ourselves in this domain is that we fool ourselves when we lose self-awareness. (Can that be made into scientific statement?) The best science-like disciplines we've developed along these lines are humanistic psychology and Buddhism. Neither would qualify as a traditional science. So I'd put it this way.
Science is what we have learned about how not to fool ourselves about the way the world is. Buddhism and humanistic psychology are what we have learned about how not to fool ourselves about our subjective experience.

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